Madalitso Muthiya of Zambia fired a six-under-par 66 at Pezula Estate and Spa for the first round of the R600,000 Vodacom Origins of Golf presented by Samsung event there, and his accurate approach play was extremely eye-catching.
“I played very well out there,” he said. “I was very consistent, and I hit about three of my wedge shots very close – maybe none as close as I did on 18,” he added of his final approach of the day which ended up inside two feet on the undulating par-five.
“And when I missed the greens a couple of times, I got up and down,” he said. “It was unfortunate that a few putts didn’t go it, but all in all, I’ll take it.”
The man who, in 2006, came through qualifying to become the first Zambian and black African to play in the US Open has an inspirational back story.
According to the entry on him on Wikipedia, he took up golf at the age of six and at 15 he caught the attention of the then Zambian president Frederick Chiluba, who helped to arrange for him to play a junior tournament in the United States, the 1999 Nolan Henk/Patty Berg Junior Masters in Fort Myers, Florida.
Muthiya won in the 16- to 18-year-old age group. He went on to play college golf at the University of New Mexico before turning professional in 2005.
He finished second in the 2006 Stanbic Zambian Open and joined the Canadian Tour in 2006.
“I played the Canadian Tour for two years, and then got on what was the Nationwide Tour in the US then in 2008 through the Final Stage of the PGA Tour School,” he said.
In eight events, he made just two cuts and lost his card. “I regained it in 2009 and played on the tour again in 2010,” he said. That was a better year for him, with seven cuts made and two top-10 finishes.
“Then I came out to South Africa to join the tour here,” he said. “It’s been tough to progress, as I have to pre-qualify for most events, and then make cuts… and from there get myself in contention.”
He’s lifted himself by his bootstraps to 94th on the 2014 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, and a good finish at Pezula will take a lot of pressure off him as he looks to move into a category which will take some of the pre-qualifying burden off him.
“I have to accept what it is and work my way up,” he said.
And he has loftier ambitions than just golfing success: In a May 2008 article in the Chicago Tribune, Muthiya said, “Once I get to where I want to go, I want to reach young black Africans.” He added, “I want them to see they can do it as well.”